LAS VEGAS — If history is any indication, making a good Android gaming console is not easy, nor is bringing a gaming PC into the living room. A $100 device that successfully combines the two sounds almost too good to be true, but Razer's Forge TV might turn out to be exactly that. The device is part Android console, part multimedia device and part PC streaming apparatus, and seems to work just fine at all three.
At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2015, I went hands-on with the Forge TV, and although I expected another "me-too" Android console, the box has a few unique characteristics that make it well worth a second look. The device will retail for $100 and launch in the first quarter of 2015.
Forge TV itself is powerful, but not terribly different than the comparable Google Nexus Player. It features a quad-core processor, a gaming-grade GPU, 2 GB RAM and 16 GB internal storage, plus the requisite Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity. Like the Nexus Player, it runs Android TV and has access to a modest but growing selection of Android games and streaming apps. Users can navigate with a controller, a mouse and keyboard or whatever else suits their fancies.
In my time with it, the system performed smoothly, even during demanding titles like the racing game Asphalt 8. The device is also fully capable of running fan favorites like The Wolf Among Us and Modern Combat 4. The selection and performance were both fine, but they're not what makes the Forge TV special.
Where the Forge TV sets itself apart is in its Cortex: Stream app. This program, which will make its beta debut in the second quarter of 2015, can stream almost any modern game from almost any modern Windows PC. As long as a computer has at least a dual-core processor and a moderately new graphics card, and the game runs on Directx9 or above, the Cortex: Stream can run it with nearly perfect fidelity.
I tried Titanfall, and was pleased to discover that the game was responsive and almost lag-free. What's more, it automatically recognized the Bluetooth controller I was using, and required no tedious remapping before jumping into the action. While the controls were a tiny bit less responsive than I'm used to on the PC or Xbox One, it was extremely impressive performance for a service that hasn't even entered the beta phase yet.
Although Razer plans to release Cortex: Stream to all Android Lollipop devices eventually, the Forge TV is where it will first become available and mature into a salable app. Forge TV owners will get it for free, whereas others will have to shell out $40, although the date of its full release is still a mystery.